If you are suspected of a crime, the state often brings charges against you. The same is true for gun crimes. However, gun charges can be considered a federal crime in some instances, which means the case goes to federal court and harsher penalties if found guilty.
Have you been charged with a federal weapons crime? Contact a lawyer ASAP to discuss your options and next steps. At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we offer free, confidential consults and considerable federal court experience. Call (614) 500-3836 today.
When Gun Charges Become Federal
Most federal gun charges arise from manufacturing or distributing guns illegally over state lines or from another country. The law covers federal gun statutes under 18 U.S.C. §922, and punishments under 18 U.S.C. §924.
Federal Gun Crimes
Gun crimes that often result in federal charges include:
- Stolen firearm: anyone who steals a gun or receives a stolen gun may be charged with a federal offense.
- Firearm in a school zone: unauthorized individuals may not possess or discharge a firearm in a school zone.
- Possession of certain weapons: anyone who is not a licensed gun manufacturer, dealer, or importer may not import, export, or receive guns.
- Illegal manufacturing: Licensed manufacturers cannot manufacture certain guns, such as sawed-off shotguns or rifles, semi-automatic weapons, or silencers. All manufactured guns must contain visible serial numbers.
Federal Gun Possession Restrictions
Federal regulations control what persons may not possess a gun and transfer it across state lines, even if they attempt to receive the weapon through a legal outlet. According to 18 U.S.C. 922(g), those who fall under this law and cannot own a gun are:
- Convicted felons, and anyone awaiting a trial for a felony;
- Drug addicts or drug users (there are certain preconditions used to determine if a person is using drugs);
- Aliens who are either in the country illegally or who do not have permanent residence in the United States;
- Persons with a prior domestic assault conviction, or persons who have received a restraining order pertaining to domestic assault;
- Persons who were dishonorably discharged from the military;
- Persons who have been adjudicated mentally ill (or reside in a facility for the mentally ill);
- Persons who are considered fugitives from justice.
A convicted felon or drug dealer in possession of a firearm can receive a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
The Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA)
Section 924(e) of the federal code is also referred to as the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). It sets the minimum sentencing guidelines for individuals convicted of unlawful gun possession who have had three previous violent felonies or serious drug charges.
This section also provides definitions for serious drug charges and violent felonies. Under ACCA, offenders with three prior violent felonies and/or serious drug charges will receive a mandatory minimum 15-year prison sentence.
What Federal Weapons Charges Mean for You
A person who distributes a firearm to another person, knowing that a gun will be used in either a violent crime or a drug trafficking crime, may receive a fine and up to 10 years in prison.
A person who smuggles a weapon they plan to use in a violent or drug-trafficking crime can also receive up to 10 years. And theft of a firearm from a licensed dealer or manufacturer can result in up to 10 years.
Additional Firearm Charges
You could be hit with additional charges if you possess or use a firearm during a violent or drug-trafficking crime. If you are found just to be carrying a gun during a crime, with no intent to use it, you can receive five additional years. Brandishing the firearm can also add seven years to your sentence. Discharging a firearm can add 10 years.
Other charges include:
- Possession or use of a shotgun or semiautomatic weapon: up to 10 additional years
- Use of a silencer, automatic gun, or destructive device: up to 30 additional years
- Second or subsequent offenders: Sentence of up to 25 years. Repeat use of a silencer, machine gun, or destructive device can carry a term of life in prison.
The use of the same firearm in multiple violent acts can result in additional sentencing. If, for example, an offender uses the same gun to commit two robberies, the offender can receive 25 years on top of a robbery sentence. If the offender uses the gun to commit three robberies, that offender could see 45 more years for firearms charges tacked onto the robbery charges.
Defenses & How a Lawyer Can Help
Federal weapons crimes are among the most serious charges you can face. That’s why it’s important to enlist a criminal defense lawyer to help. An attorney will work with you to review your options and create a defense strategy.
Possible weapon crime defenses include:
- The gun was obtained as a result of an illegal search
- The arresting officer did not have probable cause to stop you
- You did not knowingly possess the gun
- You were allowed to possess the gun or had a permit
Your lawyer may also be able to negotiate to have your charges reduced or dismissed entirely.
Facing Federal Gun Charges? Contact LHA
If you have been charged with a federal crime, you’re probably wondering about your options. The Ohio federal criminal defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates have years of experience handling these cases and securing optimal outcomes for our clients.